Plaquemine musician Jacye Guerin discusses the creative process

Greg Fischer Editor-in-chief
Jacye Guerin discusses the process of writing songs, overcoming adversities, and not being a starstruck person at Portobello's Grill in Plaquemine, La.

Jacye is like an open book if you catch her on the right day. Back in June she discussed freely a little bit of what it was like to write the songs that are in her award-winning album "That Was Then."

"I would never be able to work at a songwriting place, like to just produce music," Jacye Guerin said. "Every time I have ever written a song, it was like this whirlwind hits me. I close my eyes. It comes out in one full song. Hopefully somebody recorded."

This was one of the last things Jacye shared before the interview ended. After hearing what comes later in the article, you will understand that to be true. But let's take it back to the beginning. Jacye loves her hometown and her family above all.

"I love Plaquemine," she said. "And I think when you love Plaquemine, it's hard to leave Plaquemine."

She recently moved to Baton Rouge two months before we met. Her Uncle James, 74, still lives in Plaquemine, and her Mom and Dad live in Brusly these days. Jacye attended Brusly High for a short period and was also home schooled in Plaquemine, growing up. She moved out at 17 right back to Plaquemine.


Jacye finished "That was Then," her ultra-cool, genre bending soul's lament in 2017. But do records even sell anymore? How does it work these days?

"We put the album out in August 2018," she said.

Jacye partnered with Producer Andreas Werner of Crazy Chester Records, based in Nashville, Tenn. in the deal.

"We put it out through his label, which is an independent label, and he made me feel safe. It takes that other person sometimes. That's what happened with Andreas, Joe Funderburk, and Jimmy Nutt. I brought them these pieces of my life and they puzzled them together. Like that top coat on a puzzle to keep it still."


Best Debut Album of the Year for 2018 is what Jacye was nominated for earlier this year at the Independent Music Awards in NYC, better known as the IMA's.

"I had no idea [Werner] had submitted it," she said. "He called one day, and I was like, 'Wait, what? What does that even mean?' I'm small town. Meaning I don't get out of my comfort zone much, and when he told me that I fell out. But I'm super excited!

"It made me feel like all that heartache wasn't in vein. Like everything I wrote about. It wasn't for nothing. I try to do as much as I can work-wise, and then I just trust God to do the rest."

Jacye has endless talent. Her songs are enjoyable in the same way Janis Joplin's or even Tracy Chapman's are. But with show business, it can be tough to become famous beyond city limits in Louisiana.

"I kind of wanted to put the album out and send it to Ellen Degeneres, Jimmy Fallon, or Conan, and then from there I would think things would step up."

"I'm hoping some kind of way we could put it in for a Grammy, and then we would be set. That's my dream and maybe five-10-year goal."

The album has not been toured yet but Jacye is on her way. "We're working on booking that now," she said. "We open for Sammy Kershaw in October."

Moreover, as a way to give back Jacye plans to do a women's prison tour to kick off her "That Was Then Tour."

"God gave me this voice and experiences for a reason," she said. "I want to show the world what God has done in my life, the changes he has made, and the graces he has given me.

"He didn't give me this voice for me. He gave it to me for everyone else, for the hurting, for the elderly, for the sick, and for anyone who listens. I want people to hear God, to feel his anointing when I sing no matter the song. This voice belongs to him."


"I'm ready to open for Wynonna [Judd]," she laughed, sort of. "Since I was a kid, she's just been 'who I listen to.' I don't really listen to much of her new stuff--I hate to say that--but I really don't listen to music at all. If I need inspiration I'll kind of pull poetry sometimes."

But then she remembers that she likes Beth Hart. And later she says she also likes to listen to Lauren Daigle.

"[Hart] is kind of like an easy-listening Janis Joplin," Jacye said. It's funny because Jacye is kind of an easy-listening Janis as well. "She hits those notes, but it's not in a screaming-I'm on heroin, and I have to get it out-kind of way. They're in a singing-I did heroin, and I'm better now-way. She's calmer than Janis but in the same tone and same emotion because she made it through what Janis didn't.

"She's got really beautiful lyrics too. They're just kind of where I came from in a way, without me singing about it."

Is the singer-songwriter genre a real thing? "The album became such a music lovechild that I don't think it holds a genre. You hear a little bit of everything in it like a new artist with modern lyrics trying to say what they wanted to say added with 'the swampers' that made it Southern Rock.

"And then you have a touch of Etta James, Janis Joplin in there. You would've had a little bit more Janis Joplin had I been able to openly sing, but they were like, 'you need to take it back like a little bit.' I was coached a little bit during it, but I would've been balling out like Otis Redding had I not been able to do that.

"Live I'm a lot different than the album," Jacye said. "But I would say it's kind of like a feel-good with sad lyrics-light at the end of the tunnel-kind of genre. You're kind of going through it, getting through it, and you're relating to the lyrics in a sad way, but then you feel good."


Next, Jacye discussed the creative process of her work, and everything that went into not only the recording process but the songs themselves.

"It was very interesting for me," she said. "It was a huge learning experience. One, I'd never been around famous people like that.

"My mom printed out a booklet of each musician and what they played on, who they played with. I started seeing like Bonnie Raitt, Bob Seger, and I'm like 'Gulp, no! Y'all got to keep this.'

"The rule was while we were in Nashville and Muscle Shoals: 'Don't tell me who anybody was until after we're finished.' And so we'd leave the studio and they're like 'That's Bob Seger's guitar player!' And I'm like, 'Oh my God!' And I would freak out.

"It was very interesting to find out who everybody was, but I did not want to know beforehand. I'm not a starstruck kind of person-but you know-when they start spitting out big names like that, you've been in the studio and onstage with these people. And here I am coming in here!"

And so Jacye lived a dream in recording her debut album with some of the finest musicians she possibly could have been paired with in not only Nashville, but the world-famous Muscle Shoals, Ala. Here's what it was like for her.

"I hadn't heard three of the songs yet," she said. "One of them we wrote the night before. My producer was like, 'We have too many slow-songs. We need one more fast one.' I said, 'Dude, I gave you everything that I had. I don't know what to say.'

"But then he's kind of like fiddling on the guitar and I was like, 'Wait, that's really good. Keep doing that.' I started singing while he was doing that and began writing down everything that I sang. So we wrote "Baby Come Close" in 15 minutes the night before."


"Baby Come Close" wasn't the only surprise that's on the album, which by the way can be heard on Spotify and other places if you're new to this. It's highly recommended.

"It was insane," Jacye said. "One of the songs was a poem. And I had just given it to him, like, 'Just read it, like it, give it to somebody who had a high-pitched styled voice like a Sarah McLachlan.' Not my ratchet voice.

"He said, 'Okay,' but now we're in the studio. He had charted it up without me knowing. And he hands it to me. As I'm going into the booth he says, 'Here's the lyrics for the next song.' I look at it and I'm like, 'Oh my God there's no way I can sing this song. There's no way.'

"He was like, 'Trust yourself.' So I went in, and they start playing it, and I just closed my eyes and midway through the song you could feel this presence come through the building.

What came next in her story was pretty special.

"It was so crazy because the hair stands up on my arm," Jacye said. "And I just really got into it. I look in the studio. My mom's crying. The producer is like red-faced, about to cry. All the musicians are looking at each other like 'What is that?'

"And I let out this big 'Whoo!' in the middle of the song [From Me To You]. So after the end of the song, everybody was just like, 'I felt that,' you know. Like something else was in here.' We ended up using first take for the album.

"It's crazy how your heart, and your body, and God all work together and do something that you really doubted yourself at or you didn't know that you could do it. It was pretty outstanding. That was the talk of that trip because it was like, 'Did y'all feel that?' 'My hair stood up!' 'I cried! I couldn't stop crying, you know!' So listening to it back I was just balling crying because I knew what I had felt. I didn't feel alone in that booth.

"It was pretty cool. There are some great stories like that." She laughed.


Jacye has a tempered personality after having overcome much adversity in her life. She's been lost in addiction, jailed, hospitalized, and heartbroken by now in her early 30's.

She gigs for a living, and it's not easy to gig constantly. She said she developed throat nodules during a time when she was gigging three to four nights a week. Now she has cut back to one or two shows-a-week. She's confused about the possibility of life and work outside of making music.

"I'm looking into a job, but I don't want one." She laughed. "I don't know how to handle them. They say, 'Jacye you have a real job.' And I say, 'No, I don't. You have no idea.' It feels like ten minutes you're up there sometimes, and then it's over. And you're like man, I just want to keep playing! Sometimes they get more than what they payed for."

Most of the songs on the debut album were written in Jacye's backyard in Plaquemine, Louisiana. She shared that someone named Jamie Blair from California shot the photography for the album, and many photos were taken on oak-lined Souvigner Road between Donaldsonville and White Castle.

Jacye explained that there is one old, abandoned house on the road. And that hanging out in the house inspired her in an "if these walls could talk" kind of way. That is where they shot the album cover.

"Standing in the house watching for snakes," Jacye added. "Because they were very much there."

Half of "Little Bird" was inspired and written there. Jacye hung out there one day with a friend, Torry and began writing after the sound of all the birds singing were noticed by the two.

"Give Time Time" was written in her backyard in Plaquemine.

Moreover, Jacye met her fiance Mindee on Fourth of July, 2016. "Best day of my life," she said. "Now I'm happy, and I can't write anymore."


Eleven or 12 years ago, Jacye woke up from five or six rough years in addiction. The nature of which seemed to be downers and alcohol. What was certain is that she said she was bored with addiction.

"God touched me," she said. "After being arrested five or six times, overdosing three or four times I thought maybe being sober would be an adventure. In sobriety, you take one step and God takes three or four. I started getting phone calls from people to play in a band. Like a real band.

"I went seven or so years like this," Jacye said. "I always hung out with people who were doing things they shouldn't be. Trying to be an inspiration. I didn't think I could save you, but I thought maybe I can shine a little light into the miserable place that you're in. That's where the title song "Who's Gonna Save Me" comes from.

"I don't drink," she said. "God showed me-I think it was just a lesson and part of my life-which is hopefully going to be my career. But God showed me in those dark places, whether it was in your mind or in a prison solitary confinement. I know now. I have a spot deep inside of me that wants to help those people."


This song was explained to come out of what it's like not only to be in a terrible relationship, but also for an addict to go through a terrible sickness. Jacye battles both Crohn's disease and an onset of arthritis, which causes her pain sometimes during performances. Fire and Gasoline is about being hurt.

"After three good years of sobriety I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease," Jacye said. "And God showed me what it's like to be in severe pain and not be able to get out of it. Like nothing got rid of it.

"I learned about all those dark places that you can be stuck in that people in ordinary life don't realize. I didn't have a clue what it was like for a doctor to say, 'You have to do this or you will die.'"

"I'm glad we're not there anymore," she said.

By the way, the album was almost called: "That Was Then, She Is Now." It refers to Jacye's fiancé coming into her life. The couple still thinks of it that way. It was also at one point going to be called "From Me To You," after one of the most powerful songs, previously mentioned.


Jacye has a tattoo of a songbird singing into a microphone on her hand. And her music will take her to far away places. There's no doubt. The best thing for the rest of us is to make sure she knows she's home when we see her in Plaquemine, Baton Rouge, Gonzales, Brusly, and Donaldsonville.

You'll know it's her when you see her. Short hair, big smile, maybe playing a tobacco burst, hollow-bodied Gretsch Electric Guitar. She loves her birds and birdwatching and spends a lot of time getting to know her "little back yard critters."

"They are God's creatures, so I feed them and take care of the ones that are sick or hurt. I love watching the babies grow in several nests around my house, and I love the Goldfinch migration in January."  

She also rips covers. She plays Tracy Chapman. "Josephine" is her main guitar and that "Pearl" is her secondary guitar's name. She is named after Janis Joplin, as Janis called herself "Pearl" in her last album and her box set is called "Box of Pearls," which is Jacye's favorite collection.

Her parents Jaye and Yancy are very proud of her. Her mother reached out to the Post South to congratulate her for the IMA award nomination, an award in itself.

"I've written probably six to 10 new songs that are album worthy," Jacye said. "I recently did some work with local musician Peggy Polk, who plays with the Eddie Smith Band and other local greats.

"We were writing a song together called 'Caribbean Paradise,' but I kept saying, 'Pariddean Carabise,' like, 'What's wrong with me? My brain's not working.'"

Side Note: Jimmy Buffett would be proud if he heard the song "Pariddean Carabise" on the radio one day.

Lastly, Jacye recorded at the Nutthouse Studio while in the famous Muscle Shoals Alabama. The producer there, Jimmy Nutt notably recorded The SteelDrivers 2016 GRAMMY Award winning album "The Muscle Shoals Recordings."

Artists such as Alabama Shakes, Percy Sledge, and Billy Ray Cyrus have also recorded there.

Jacye's album That Was Then did not win the IMA for Best Debut Record. The album "Come Around" by Birdland Avenue did instead. But to be nominated with just four other groups was something special.

"Don't take God out of the article, and spell my name right," was the final thing Jacye said in the interview. She wanted to make sure to add the hashtag #Alwaysbekind as her message to the world.